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NOLAN SAW LIGHTNING AS ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR LOSE-LOSE SITUATION

Small Thoughts at Large:

So why did Ted Nolan turn down the Tampa Bay Lightning and a chance to get back into coaching in the NHL?

Tampa Bay general manager Phil Esposito said it was because Nolan wanted to remain in Canada and felt that Mike Murphy would soon get the ax in Toronto or that Tom Renney would be fired in Vancouver and Nolan could move into either job.

Nice try, Phil and maybe there's even a glimmer of truth in some of it, but the overriding reason Nolan turned down your offer was simple; it's a lose-lose situation.

The betting in hockey circles is that Esposito isn't long for his job either, especially if the team is sold. The Lightning has been up for sale for over a year now with various suitors looking to pick it off for a bargain-basement price. Nolan turned his back on Tampa's offer because he didn't want to get into yet another unstable ownership situation with a cash-strapped franchise that has erratic management and couldn't afford to hold onto its best player (sound familiar?). Complicating the situation is the possibility that former Sabres general manager John Muckler could end up as Tampa's new GM. Muckler has done some consulting for one of the potential ownership groups and is rumored as a general manager candidate there.

Jim Kelly Denies Taking a Punch from Indianapolis Quarterback Jim Harbaugh

Jimbo, Jimbo, Jimbo. Did you think this media thing was an easy gig? You were attacked by an athlete for something you said about him. I could give you a world of advice on the repercussions of all that, but the important thing is to tell the truth. Frankly, I don't think you've done that so far and pretending it didn't happen won't help. Look what that did for Marv Albert.

Listen big guy, you gave an opinion. In this business, that's your job, your right and it's what's expected of you. So what if people who barely know you question your motives. Some will even go so far to say you're an idiot and that they don't respect you and never did, but don't let that get you down, Jimbo. You're in a profession where slings and arrows now go hand-in-hand with clenched fists and overhand rights. Get used to it. Better yet, learn from it, but don't back away. You wouldn't want to blow your credibility and not get back on the Budweiser Sportsline.

Larry Quinn gets a Contract Extension

No one over in Sabreworld is willing to speak on the record about this, but it's a fact as true and blue as the empty seats at Marine Midland Arena.

Quinn's contract was scheduled to run out on Nov. 1 and the board has given him an extension. It's not for the money Quinn wanted, but it goes beyond one year.

Why would the board choose to reward a man who in four months orchestrated a near total collapse of the fan and season ticket base by firing Muckler AND Nolan, siding with a goaltender who killed off the coach of the year (and has since turned in some of his worst hockey ever) and butchered the handling of the Pat LaFontaine situation? Well, some say it's because Quinn won a lot of friends in ownership when he built Marine Midland Arena on time and within budget. He also saved the club a tidy sum when he relieved it of the obligation of the $9.6 million remaining on LaFontaine's contract and he produced record income for the franchise in its first year in the new arena. That counts for something, even if former president Doug Moss laid the groundwork for that last item.

Nice try, but this is really little more than Quinn's induction into the golden parachute club. Owners are shocked by the falloff in fan support and even more shocked that they haven't started trickling back in yet (they always have). If Quinn can't get the fans back in the building fast, or if there's a significant change in the makeup of the board of directors in the next few weeks, Quinn's going to need that chute.

Maybe Moss, Muckler and Jennifer Smith can show him how it works.

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